Friday, 24 May 2019

Going to the Chartres Pilgrimage!

The Indestructible Denim Skirt of Maximum Traddery is going back to Chartres! This time I will bring a snazzy camera, the better to capture all the pageantry and pain that is the world's premier TLM pilgrimage.

This year I will for sure buy a pilgrim's badge for my navy blue French Scout Hat of Incredible Foreignness.

I told my editor that I would harbour no hard feelings if he decided my time was better spent at my desk on other stories, for the pilgrimage is penitential and gruelling. However, he thought that sounded great, so I sent off a text to the leader of the Scottish Chapter, who rejoiced in the addition of a sheep to the Caledonian flock.

My editor recalled that there is usually someone important at the concluding Mass of the Chartres Pilgrimage, and his recollection was not faulty, for last year it was Cardinal Sarah. I hinted broadly that the important personage generally addresses the throng in French, and French is not one of your humble correspondent's pet languages. However, I am sure I will find someone to explain notable speeches to me.

Now I must begin to train for the ordeal ahead, and also to review my earlier reports, so that I do not remember too late what I learned last time. Most crucial is that I not bring my monster-beast of a red suitcase but a backpack roomy enough for my tent.

Fortunately for humanity, I realised even before I attempted the 2016 Pilgrimage that I must have a tent to myself.

Chartres Pilgrimage Essentials

1. Hiking boots with gel insoles.
2. Big backpack (no suitcase).
3. Own tent.
4. Shoes for camp that can survive water and mud.
5. Simple carbs. (I learned this the hard way, too. Don't be keto before or during a 70 mile hike.)
6. Flashlight.
7. Glasses, not contacts. (Was I in-SANE?)
8. Large water- and sunroof hat.
9. Tub for soaking feet.
10. Very warm sleeping bag.
11. Eye mask in case of dawn before reveille.
12. Earplugs because of German youth playing "Oh! Suzanna" on guitars.
13. Many socks.
14. Rosary.
15. First Aid kit with scissors, fabric bandages, Compeed blister plasters, etc.
16. Air mattress.
17. Bowl
18. Mug
19. Water bottle
20. Fork-knife-spoon
21. Day knapsack.
22. Rain jacket
23. Nice outfit for Monday night, post-pilgrimage French restaurant supper.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Trad Fashion

I was aimlessly scrolling through Pinterest, wishing I had the guts to wear repro Victorian dresses to Mass (bustle and all), when I remembered a very funny anecdote a friend told me about a most unexpected reaction to her trad Catholic outfit which I suspect involved running shoes, leggings, maxi skirt, maxi shirt and a puffa vest. In short, the onlooker involved honestly thought my friend was mental.

At the moment I have almost no clothing because The Closet is NOT All Mine, I work from home, and I am in the process of repairing the damage done to my figure by sitting in front of a computer for the better part of two years. Two more inches off my waist, and I can have a new skirt. Yay!

In preparation for that happy day, I am thinking that the way to go is either full-on, reproduction Edwardian or crisp T-shirts with maxi-skirt, sandals (or, if T-shirt replaced by a lacy blouse, buttoned boots) and a snazzy belt.

Naturally I still have the Indestructible Blue Denim Maxi-skirt of Abject Traddery for hiking, gardening and such housework I am not doing in my gym clothes. But really I look like heck on earth  lately.

Monday, 20 May 2019

A Highland Walk

On Friday I wrote four articles and then ran around collecting items for a 2-day hike in the Highlands. My friend is going on the Chartres Pilgrimage, and I promised to help her train. Besides, there is nothing like spending the weekend in the countryside after a week at my desk.

The weather forecast in Braemar was for rain, though, and after getting my beloved 2-man tent out of the closet, I wondered how I was going to feel carrying it for 20 miles. Since my principal New Year's Resolution was "Our Health First", I left it behind and trusted to either 1. my friend bringing a tent or 2. a mutual decision not to camp in pouring rain but to return to my friend's house instead.

B.A., by the way, had already left for a retreat in Pluscarden Abbey.

Soon after I got on the train, I felt all stress and frustration slip away because trains are magic. I read an entertaining self-help book (Positively Primal) and crunched corn nuts all the way to Cupar, where my friend picked me up and took me to her farmhouse, where we had herbal tea before going to bed.

Then my phone buzzed and a text told me, in British, that a hospitalised friend wasn't going to recover and was going home to die. And then I discovered that although I could get texts in the countryside, I couldn't send them.

There passed a terrible hour in which I roamed the house trying to find a signal and then finally called both B.A. and my sick friend's spouse on the landline, leaving messages and waking poor B.A., who phoned the landline back. Then there was nothing to do but cry, pray the rosary, and try to get some sleep.

The next morning my healthy friend and I discussed whether or not we should give up the whole plan and go to Edinburgh or go on a day's walk, the camping plan now being abandoned because of the forecast. My sick friend's spouse called, and as a result of that conversation, my healthy friend and I determined we could, at least, go on a day's walk and then go to Edinburgh on Sunday morning.

And I was very glad we did go on our walk, for there are few places on earth (I gather after a childhood of reading National Geographic magazine) more beautiful yet still comfortable to walk in than the Scottish Highlands, and few better ways to unwind. The fresh damp air smells of pine trees, and the trails wind past low green mountains wreathed with mist. The nasty urban world of decadence and decay no longer exists; the only people around are also walkers or, astonishingly, doughty cyclists. The forecast had exaggerated the rain, too, so instead of the downpour we were expecting, we had dry periods, Scotch mist and mild drizzle. Even better, the biting midges had not yet arrived.

We walked for three hours and then sat down off the trail in a flat green place partly protected by trees to have tea and coffee. Two middle-aged Dutch hikers came along to ask us about a nearby both, and I invited them to have a cup of tea. So we all sat around and drank tea (or coffee), and my friend asked them about pilgrimages in the Netherland and eventually gave them Miraculous Medals as the younger one tried to remember the English for "spiritual but not religious."

The Dutch hikers were terribly moral about the environment, having come the the UK by ferry instead of plane. They always spend their entire two week annual holiday walking in the Highlands before going to Edinburgh to eat at delicious restaurants. While they were clearly not religious and probably ordinary contemporary PC Western Europeans, I could at least comfort myself that we probably seemed wonderfully exotic and had provided them not only with tea, biscuits and Miraculous Medals, but also an amusing anecdote. They had also broken bread with a real-life Scot (my friend) which, let me tell you, is not a daily matter for foreigners in Scotland.

We had an elderly black lab with us, too, who, although a bit arthritic, frisked about and brought us sticks he hoped we would throw. Although I imagine two women are safe enough walking in the Highlands, having a big dog made me feel even more confident, and if we had camped, I would have felt perfectly secure under his protection.

Anyway, it was marvellous. We prayed all fifteen decades of the rosary for my sick friend, the mysteries spaced out--Joyful and Sorrowful on our way through the hills and Glorious on the way back. My French Scout hat, which makes me painfully self-conscious in the city, kept off the rain beautifully and my old hiking boots, with new gel insoles from the Boots in Blairgowrie, were still up to the task. At one point on the way back we walked along the River Dee and admired a black sheep among the white on the other side, hills in the background, and I marvelled at the beauty of the scene. I sincerely wondered why I don't go walking in the Highlands more often.

The answer, of course, is that when the weather is really good and calls Scots out-of-doors, the midges are waiting to bite them. They start biting in early June and don't stop until the end of September, and really they are horrible. I prefer to cower in the south and walk in the Borders, where midges are few and far between.

Eventually, when we were very tired and sore, but not yet exhausted or blistered, we reached the car again. We did some preventative stretches and drove away in high good humour back to Braemar. There we went to the Flying Stag pub, which was packed, and after being refused by a regretful waitress, my friend charmed a waiter into finding us a table and keeping the kitchen open a little later.  To our delight we were seated in leather armchairs by a window and were soon tucking into fish-and-chips and a Highland-beef-with-marrow hamburger, which we washed down with a half-pint of IPA (my driving friend) and TWO half-pints of bitter (your correspondent) while the dog charmed the other patrons.

We had reached the Flying Stag before sunset, which in Braemar was about 9:30 PM, and thus it was still light when we ate, but it was dark when we got on the road. The highway south was rather exciting for, although there were few cars, there were many deer and rabbits scampering across it. But despite these alarms, I fell asleep after Coupar Angus and woke up only at the farm. It was midnight.

The next morning we walked through the countryside for another two hours, saying 15 more decades for my sick friend, and then we drove to Edinburgh for Mass. After communion I popped into the Church hall to turn off the lights and the hot water machine and affix a "No Tea Today" sign, as the only trained tea person around was me*. When Mass was over, my kind friend drove me to Waitrose where I bought roses for my sick friend and a moussaka for my friend's spouse, and then I took the bus and found my sick friend entertaining friends and, despite late-onset diabetes, eating sweets.

"At this point, you should do what you want," I said, meaning "eat what you want."

"Yes, that's what I think," said my sick friend.

*There is the most awful row if there is as much as a crumb left behind after the Trad Mass has its Cup of Tea of Peace, so I felt that this decision, though it would disappoint at least a dozen people, including cookie-loving children, was the right one.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Make Way for Goslings!

I have been reading a lot about brain health, and excessive stress is a big enemy of the brain, just as it is a mortal enemy of the heart.

A little stress is okay. I used to get a good gulp of stress juice every second Monday morning when I wrote my biweekly CR column.  Now, however, I sit at my desk for up to eight hours a day, five days a week, reading or writing the Saddest Church News in the World, risking the loss of at least a dozen Facebook friends, and feeling mighty stressed. And sometimes, like today, I get yet another UK tax bill and am reminded that, Tax Treaty or no, I'm still being taxed by two countries, and I don't know how to stop it.* 

Now, I fear tax forms the way some people fear cats, others fear spiders, and still others the number 13. Anything having to do with taxes leaves me a screaming, crying, irrational mess. I hope I am not as loud as the baby next door, but I fear I may be. A local accountancy firm handles my considerable UK taxes and deductions, but they don't know how to deal with Revenue Canada. When I first consulted them, B.A. was very, very sick, and either I didn't ask the right questions or I didn't draw the most logical conclusions.  

Anyway, I've been doing many things to try to eliminate excessive stress or minimise its damage. I've been going to exercise class. I've been breaking up my eight hours with bouts of housework. I study languages, of course. I teach writing to children twice a month. I have a weekly Italian class  and a biweekly Polish chat. Two mornings this week (including this morning when I was a mental, double-taxed, wreck), I did some fierce weeding in the garden. I pray the Rosary. I try to meditate on the word "Peace." (This is definitely a work in progress.) I avoid starchy vegetables and prepared foods. I look at Scottish puppies for sale online. I go to bed early and get up at about 7 AM every day.  I roll a Pilates ball under my feet while on the computer so at least part of me is moving. I'm even being more careful about flossing. 

Yesterday was a very good day for stress-reduction. After Barre class, I realised how good Barre class was for my muscles. After Italian class, I realised that my favourite 1990s Italian pop song (cheerfully despised by my teacher) is full of examples of the condizionale, and began to memorise it.     I went home and got a lot of work done. I hung a load of laundry out in the sun, and I rolled the ball around under my feet. Dinner was full of vegetables, and I was in bed at 11. 

Today was---not so good. Yes, I got in some Polish study and some Italian study, too. I walked B.A. to work, and went home planning to put in two hours of gardening before work. But then the post came with another horrid brown envelope  and ... Well, an hour or so later I got some weeding done. Death to dandelions. 

After work, while making myself stop straying back to the upsetting subject of double-taxation,  I suggest to B.A. that we go for a walk to the ice-cream parlour. Sugar is not great if you are trying to cut back on stress, but the ice-cream parlour is locally famous, the vanilla ice-cream (at very least) is all-natural, and the route is along the river. 

The river is populated with swans, geese and ducks and, as I noticed yesterday, goslings and ducklings. I haven't seen any cygnets yet. The ducklings are wee, but the goslings are super-fluffy and so even cuter than the former. On our way back across the river bridge, I espied ducklings but not yesterday's goslings, so I was a bit worried. There are presumably many wild birds and beasts around gunning for goslings. However, soon I spotted not one but two families of Canada geese composed of 2 parents and 5 babies each. I found this greatly cheering. 

Also cheering was the memory of various Italian towns and cities where old married couples and families walk through the streets of their neighbourhoods, arm in arm. It's a lovely custom, especially in summer, and would be a lovely custom on summer nights here, too, as the sun doesn't set until after 9 PM. 

"Facciamo una passeggiata," I said to B.A., who agreed. 

*Yes, I did take some action, including speaking to a very rude Revenue Canada agent, who felt I should know that it's "my responsibility" to stop them from taxing me. Yes, I know. Where do I get the forms?

Monday, 13 May 2019

Joy of Summer

I used to wonder why June 21, the first day of summer,  was called "midsummer," but now that I live in the UK, I know.

Summer in the UK begins when the rain stops and the sun actually feels warm, and this year that was today. I had a very splendid day, too. I used to love autumn best, but now that I live in the UK, my allegiances have switched to early summer, i.e. May. 

This morning I did an hour of Polish study, and then I dragged myself outdoors to the back garden and did two hours of weeding between the paving stones in the lovely sun. Then I hung out a load of laundry, and had some rosół (Polish chicken soup) left over from the dinner party we had last night. It turned out beautifully, so no more stock cubes for me ever. 

Then I did some more laundry and wrote three articles. It was launder, hang, write, fetch and fold, launder, hang, write, fetch and fold all day. Then B.A. made chicken croquettes, so I stopped working to eat. And then a Polish pal came with his mother to borrow a piano, and I rushed for the homemade black currant vodka, squeaking Czy macie ochotę na czarną porzaczkę? before our Polish pal had time to warn his mother about me and my linguistic obsession.

In my sitting room, where twice a week I harangue my Polish tutor po polsku, I am rather better at Polish than at church, so I did much better chatting with our Polish pal's bewildered mother than I usually do chatting with our Polish pal. So that was extremely awesome and rather put a crown on our first summer day. 

The denouement was sitting outside with B.A. screened by beech hedges as we pondered my handiwork, the telephone wires and the currently naked trellis against the shed and drank white wine. By the way, the apple blossoms have mostly blown away, but the roses (pink and white) have begun to bloom.

Tomorrow I will do an anti-dandelion search-and-destroy mission before I go to Barre class.  Yes, I do love summer.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Joy of Teachers

Despite yesterday's Argentinian food fest for our wedding anniversary, I bounced out of the flat this morning, all excited about Cycle class. Cycle class--which is probably called spin class everywhere else--is a killer, but it's great fun. My favourite Cycle teacher, dark-haired, tiny, and mad, can whip up the class into a frenzy of cycling and sweat. When she says "Turn up that dial," I actually do it.

Usually during Cycle class I try to think only about what the teacher is yelling over the music, but today it occurred to me that the reason why the old run-for-half-an-hour, lift-weights-for-half-an-hour routine no longer inspires is because I'm alone at home all day working on highly stressful news, and the last thing I need is another hour alone with myself and my thoughts. I need classes---especially as I can't get to Polish night school any more.

Maybe this is the secret of getting fit: you experiment with a lot of activities and beginners' classes and then commit to the ones that are right for you right now. Teachers are a big part of that, for me, since I am the sort of student who either wants to become the teacher or wants to avoid them altogether. (I'm trying to get some balance there, however.)

Teachers should inspire, and today I was inspired by this video because it showed what the human body is capable of. Well, that human body anyway. Starting ballet at three is probably a good way to work up to this:

All bodies are different, of course, just as all brains are different. I like the idea of trying to achieve the healthiest brain and body I can manage. Benedict Ambrose is happy just walking to and from work and having the occasional hike or bike ride. But then he's from a line of tiny, thin Scots, whereas I have the 300+ lb spectre of German-American Great-Aunt Tilly hulking in the back of my  mind, drinking endless cans of cherry cola.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Married Ten Years

Today is the tenth wedding anniversary of Benedict Ambrose and me, and thus ten years since I stopped being "Seraphic Single."

I was going to joke that I am almost at the point where I can give advice about being married, but then I realised I have already. At least, I'm sure I blogged that a woman should take every opportunity to praise her husband for doing anything well, on the principle that men are like beautiful plants, and wives must metaphorically water them.  

Another useful piece of advice, aimed at wives in countries with imperfect medical systems, is to be prepared to fight to the death for your sick husband albeit without raising your voice or doing anything else that gets you kicked out of the hospital. To use a less martial image, be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. 

A third piece of advice is to be grateful every day for what you have and not to think overmuch about what you don't have--money, children, a clean house, a PhD, a career, whatever. To a remarkable (although of course not total) extent, happiness or sorrow is up to you. 

I love the realism of the wedding vows: "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health." We've definitely experienced all of that--never more so than in the last 26 months. 

The worst, I think, was the terrible spring after B.A.'s first brain operation when nobody, even me, took his first complaints seriously. (More advice: don't expect your husband to snap back to his old self within three months of  life-saving surgery.) The poorest was the terrible February I returned to the Historical House to find the contents on the front lawn and discovered we were banished from our home in the attic indefinitely. The sickest was when B.A. was sliding slowly towards a coma, and nobody seemed to see how ill he was except me. 

Speaking of sickness, the day the doctor phoned me to say that my bloodwork indicated signs of irreversible peri-menopause (and was I still sure I didn't want to try IVF ?) was also bad.

However, the interesting thing about this (now that you're all in tears) is that, just as soothing docken grows right among the nettles, the "better", the "richer" and the "health" were right there by the bad stuff. 

The night that B.A. was diagnosed with a brain tumour and hydrocephaly was terrible, but we lived most of it together, with an acuteness I don't think we'd experienced since we first fell in love. The next morning before his operation was like that, too. It was terrible, but it was the best. He sat up in bed--looking as healthy as could be, by the way--and I sat with my feet in his bed (against the rules,  I later discovered), and we just "were" together. 

The day we were officially evicted from the Historical House was awful, but we had saved up against this day, and so when we got the message that we were never going home, we had more money than either of us had ever had in our lives. So, in our most abject moment of poverty, we were richer than before (in money anyway). 

The year B.A. was so sick, I was physically well. A lot of anxiety, but no depression. I started a full-time job and managed also to visit B.A. in hospital every day and, when he was bed-ridden at home, I  forced him down the stairs for walks and made him what should have been fattening Christmas food. I called up the Caregivers Association and cried. I got on Facebook and asked for cards, letters, and children's drawings--which came. I walked five miles to a Scottish shrine three times. I gave houseroom to a temporarily homeless young married couple, too, and in return got youthful energy from them. In short, I had all the health I needed to get people to do their best to make B.A. (and keep me) well. 

Meanwhile, the day I learned from that cold, clinical phone call that I will never have a baby, B.A. rushed home from work as soon as I phoned him. I didn't think he would, but he did.  He held me while I cried, which reminds me now of the first time he rubbed docken on my arm when I got prickled by a nettle. 

Before all that, of course, there were the ordinary ups and downs of marriage: the parties, the weekend guests, the Christmas family visits, the summer family visits, the negative pregnancy tests, the arguments over how to wash dishes properly, the arguments over housework, the pride in each other's publications. 

Regrets? Yes--one. I had a prospective on my desk in 1990 from the University of Aberdeen; weirdly enough, I had a half-fancy to go there. Sincere apologies to all the friends I made between 1990 and 2008, but if I could got back in time, I would find some way to get to Aberdeen and meet B.A. when we were both in our twenties. However, there is no point thinking about impossibilities, so instead I will be grateful for my friends and B.A. Better late than never. 

Well, that's what our marriage looks like. Not as glamorous as a bridal magazine, that's for sure. But real.

Update: I realise I've said most of this before, but let's face it: it was traumatic, and people do tend to revisit their trauma.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

The Joy of the Cherry Trees

The cherry trees along the river are no longer in their April glory, but some blossoms still adhere. One of the nice side-effects of gym class ("barre" today) is that I walk home along this river. The river, whose earliest stone bridges were built by the Romans, has a population of ducks, geese and swans, and the ducks quack together cheerfully. I find this very soothing to the ear.

As I walked along today, I pondered my homeschooled students. I am apt to say things like, "When you are 25 ... " and they are apt look a bit dubious, as if turning 25 is something that happens only to other people.

I'm teaching what I call "English Composition" and what my high school called "English Writer's Craft." The children are clever, so they have grasped the structure of the "persuasive essay." We're now working on the "descriptive paragraph," and I told them that when they are 25 they will want to reminisce about their childhood home, so they should experience it in detail now for better recollection later.

That reminds me, I marched up to the apple tree yesterday and had a good snuff of the white blossoms. They have a very sweet if subtle smell, and I am thrilled.  My childhood home had a pear tree, and I don't remember the blossoms smelling like anything. They did, however, make me break out in blotches. The pears themselves were an acquired taste, and my parents made dozens of bottles of jam, of which I soon tired, and for which I would give large sums to taste today.

I had forgotten about this jam until a few years ago when I was in Gdansk--I'm pretty sure it was Gdansk--and had some pear ice-cream from a Poland-wide chain patisserie called Sowa. Suddenly I was transported to a sunny, tree-lined street in Willowdale in the 1970s, where my parents cooked jam behind a wooden baby barrier stuck in the doorway.

I must admit, though, that I was very often bored in the back garden--which naturally I then called a back yard--of our part of that sunny, tree-lined street, and spent what seems like hours swinging on the swing-set and staring at the cloudless blue sky wishing I could go to the UK.

And here I am, so that worked out well.

But to return to my charges, I hope they dig up the riches of sensory apprehension of their surroundings right from the start of their writing career. When I go through my teenage diaries, I am always sorry I did not include more detail and, therefore, more illustrations of the outfits I wore to dances. I wish very much I had thought to illustrate the outfits my friends wore to dances, and the now-amusing hairstyles.

I am also sorry that I thought I had nothing to write a novel about because just writing about my day to day life would have made at least two good ones: a teenage drama culminating in me being chucked in the drunk tank of the local police station for pro-life activism and a coming-of-age horror story involving half-starving to death in romantic downtown before returning to tense uptown. Very cheap ground beef on special at the local butcher featured.

Dear heavens, I would not be 24 again for anything. No wonder my students look confused at the thought they will be (please God) in their 20s themselves one day.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The Joy of Exercise

Since I write mostly about sad or simply controversial things all day--yesterday was devoted to a Facebook ban, Canada's growing euthanasia numbers and the destruction-by-media of a Catholic businessman--I think I will concentrate only on The Happy for this blog.

Early last month, when I was slouched over my desk reporting on The Sad, I suddenly snapped and told Benedict Ambrose that Something Must Change. First I demanded a puppy, and then I rushed off, inwardly gobbling, to an exercise class.

Now I have done 16 bouts of exercise (14 of them in studios), and we will be getting a puppy after we return from a trip to Berlin in July.

The greatest driver of happiness, apparently, are close relationships with other human beings. This is easier said than developed, however, if you move across the ocean from your family in mid-life and don't make any more family. However, exercise and pets are high up on the list of cures for gloom.

Yesterday I took a barre class, which involves ballet exercises, isometric exercises and girly dumbbells. It was great fun and made my quadriceps, already aching from a spin class I took the day before, ache some more. It also made me smile and afterwards to laugh because almost all the other women in the class (and we were all women) were half my age, slimmer, taller and much more beautiful than me.

There were two men, I think, in my spin class, and one or two women older than me. But again for the most part I was at the back of the class marvelling at the elegant spines of beautiful, tall, slim twenty-somethings. It makes me wonder why more men don't take spin class although out of the past I can hear the very slender twenty-something me yell, "Don't encourage men to chat up women in the gym."

I am a world away from the YMCA and the boxing ring in more ways than one, that's for sure. In the 90s and 00s, I almost never took an exercise class because they were still mostly versions of "Aerobics," which meant dance routines too complicated for uncoordinated me.

Instead I ran on the treadmill for half an hour, getting high on endorphins, and then I lifted free weights and pushed on the correct parts of various machines. For a few years I walked two miles and back to a boxing gym up to three nights a week. There I did a circuit of various stations at the gym--heavy bag, speed bag, skipping--while waiting for a trainer or to spar with someone in the scary old ring.

Unsurprisingly, both the weight room at the Y and the boxing gym (especially) were dominated by men. This almost never bothered me although you can bet there were young men aggrieved that I was  in the boxing gym at all. One manifested his displeasure by popping in a tape of the most misogynist rap lyrics I had ever heard, but my coach soon put a stop to that. He was as tough as nails, a Cockney immigrant who put up a shrine to the Cray Twins in his gym, but he was also fair-minded and seemed to divide the world merely into fighters and people who could be fighters.

I very much disliked being chatted up at either the Y or the boxing gym, and this happened rather less often than I (now being in my 40s) would expect regarding a woman in her 20s. It was probably because I had the ice-blue eyes and the forbidding expression of a Wehrmachthelferin.

I was also 117 lbs and fit into a Club Monaco size 2. I don't expect ever to be that slim again, but it will be amusing to find out how fit I can become in middle-life.